Alan Ah Mu
APIA: SATURDAY 25 JANUARY 2014: Alleged corruption found in Samoa Land Corporation has led to a high-level recommendation for legal action against those involved.
The recommendation is contained in a report by a Parliamentary Committee tabled Friday in Parliament.
“What is disturbing and alarming to note (is) that the board and corporation management always had the impression they have unlimited authority to do whatever they may wish to do with public resources,” the committee says.
Made up of seven Members of Parliament, the committee was appointed to consider findings of irregularities and wrongdoings in Government ministries and public bodies by Controller and Chief Auditor Fuimaono Papali’i Afele.
Samoa Land Corporation is the only state entity audited by Fuimaono and probed by the parliamentary committee where instances of discrepancies and corrupt practices were so serious, legal action was recommended.
“That a special performance unit be carried out in the provision of services rendered by Management of the Corporation as soon as practicable,” the parliamentary committee also recommends.
A host of wrongdoing identified by the Controller and Chief Auditor in Samoa Land Corporation (SLC) was confirmed by the committee – which sought the “assistance” of SLC management, namely: General Manager, Peseta Afoa Arasi Tiotio; Manager (Lands Division) Tupai Eseta Mauaivao; Manager (Finance), Leota Ioselani Kamu; Manager (Investment) Josephine S. Mikaele.
SLC management insisted they responded to matters raised by the chief auditor but the committee found no evidence of that.
Amongst Chief Auditor findings confirmed by the committee:
(a) A Lexus vehicle bought by SLC for the then Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga: (a) the purchase did not go through the usual tender process or to Cabinet for approval, which was of concern to the committee.
(b) It was not discussed by the SLC board.
(c) the vehicle should have been paid for by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment which SLC was under in 2006 – 2011.
(c) Management confirmed $400,000 was used to buy two vehicles, one for the minister and one for the corporation that cost $200,000 each. But the actual cost of the minister’s Lexus was $399 105.90 – “This is quite expensive compared to other Cabinet Ministers vehicles,” the committee says.
(d) Because of “additional cost … the actual cost of the vehicle is $1,105, 042.90,” it says.
* Staff benefits:
(a) “60% special price for quarter acre land; bonuses end of each financial year not based on performance – tax free.
(b) Appointment of the former general manager of the South Pacific Games as a technical adviser on a salary of $80,000. “This post was not advertised but was a direct appointment.”
(c) Appointment of a secretary for the minister at a salary of $60,000 to record every meeting of a board the minister was a member of.
* Purchase of a water rig drill. Cabinet approved $1,196,067.93 for it SLC paid $2,192,210.90, a difference of $996,142.97 – which required Cabinet approval but did not. Management violated procurement policies.
* SLC paid a middleman company, Seyleck Global Supplies (SGS), “a tremendous amount of expenditure … without complying with normal and proper tender procedures.”
(a) $3.5 million in July 2007 and in December 2008 “for fixed assets which included 3 motor vehicles, computer set, heavy equipment, gold equipment.”
* Required by law to table in Parliament an annual report SLC last did that for the period ended June 2005.
* A landscaping and nursery company is paid $16,833 a month, a job not tendered as per Government policy.
* The cost to build SLC headquarters was set at $2,800,000 including taxes. The bidder that won the contract put in a tender of $2,600,000 and won it because the bid included installation of an elevator.
It cost $4,495,979.67 in the end. The elevator has never worked since construction of SLC headquarters ended in 2011.
The committee believes the variation in cost should have been referred to Cabinet for approval. “The matter was only discussed and approved by the Board of Directors of the SLC.”